Sixty minutes. That was all new Montreal Impact signing Matteo Ferrari needed to convince club owner Joey Saputo and sporting director Nick De Santis he deserved a trial.
“We had great discussions with Matteo in Italy, which was encouraging because other teams in MLS were monitoring him,” De Santis told MLSsoccer.com on Thursday by phone from Orlando, Fla. “It was him who came to meet us. That shows how interested he was. It took all of one hour of discussions before we sent him to [preseason camp in] Los Angeles.”
Ferrari, who signed a one-season deal with an option for three more, had previously been training in Monza, Italy, with forward Bernardo Corradi, who is currently on trial with the Impact. And there are more players with Italian ties in Montreal; defender Nelson Rivas played for Inter Milan and Livorno, while midfielder Felipe Martins made a handful of appearances for Padova.
Despite appearances, De Santis says the staff’s objective is not necessarily to surround the club with a resolutely Italian aura.
“When you bring in a player who has played first division soccer in a certain country, he is going to recommend players he knows from that place,” De Santis explained. “Corradi is already well-integrated into the group, but we still have to establish, over the next 10 to 14 days, if he can help us. We know he’s an excellent person, the question is whether or not he’s the right fit.”
As far as fits are concerned, it seems Ferrari has already been a resounding success. Despite some time off the pitch, the 32-year-old center back has been impressive in preseason matches, leading the back line particularly well alongside Tyson Wahl during the 1-1 draw with the Houston Dynamo on Wednesday.
Befitting a player of his experience, he displayed leadership qualities the Montreal coaches are very much fond of.
“His integration within the group was excellent, he is deeply motivated,” De Santis stated. “With his international experience and his background in the top flight, he brings quality, experience and leadership to our squad. He still has work to do in order to reach match fitness, obviously, since he’s just coming back on the field, but we’re thrilled.”
On the other hand, the signing of Ferrari leaves the Impact with very restricted room for defender Bobby Burling, who still hasn’t signed a contract with the club.
“We still have his rights,” De Santis confirmed, “but whether we’ll trade him, sell him or keep him remains to be seen.”